By Richard Symanski
A firsthand account of the adventures of an ornithological box workforce learning long-tailed finches in outback Australia. It offers an perception into the calls for of professor-student-based fieldwork, quite whilst generational conflicts and differing expectancies complicate doing technology.
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Additional info for Blackhearts: Ecology in Outback Australia
Once beyond the thickets of yellow acacia, the road became single lane, a deeply rutted washboard that had me stopping constantly to walk hinter and yon to some promising bush or tree in search of finch nests. After a long morning and afternoon of sticking my arms through tunnels of sharp spines, I hadn’t come upon enough nests to fill a small lunch bag. The biggest catch of the day was one I didn’t want to tell anyone about; all the birds I’d been killing with my rolling wheels. My noisy approach flushed them from the tall grass and weeds that lined both sides of the road.
Females found red-banded males attractive, those with green bands unattractive. In long-term breeding experiments on captive birds, red-banded males raised more offspring than green-banded ones. If the EPF rates were the same in the clutches reared by red-banded and green-banded males, then the generalization that attractive males had enhanced reproductive success was true. But what if attractive males, which Nancy had also found showed lower rates of parental care, fathered fewer of their socially reared young?
He explained how the netting was done. I sensed that he was searching my face for an intelligent response, proof that I was in fact a biologist. I showed interest in his story. But I knew virtually nothing about Newcastle disease. One of the other agents approached me—a bulky, middle-aged sort with a grisly brown beard and a floppy beer belly. He got down on his knees in front of one of the crates, then took a knife out of his pocket and burrowed small holes in the soft pine. “They’re bird traps; I’m going to be trapping zebra finches,” I said to him.